For the part of my AFC Championship preview focusing on the Jets, I spoke with my Fanball colleague Joe Caporoso. Joe's a great writer who runs Turn on the Jets and knows the team as well as anyone. His Turn On The Jets TV episode focusing on this weekend's game is particularly worth a look. My questions and his answers are below.
Andrew Bucholtz: At the start of the season, did you think the Jets had a chance to make it to the AFC Championship Game? How about at the start of the playoffs?
Joe Caporoso: At the start of the season, I picked the Jets to go 10-6 and make the playoffs as a wild-card team. I figured they might steal a game in the playoffs, but back in August, it was hard to picture a team with a rookie head coach and rookie quarterback going to the AFC Championship Game. At the start of the playoffs, I felt confident because of how well they were running the ball and how their defense was playing. Also, I loved the matchup with the Bengals in the first round. I wouldn't have gone so far as to say they were favorites for the Super Bowl like Rex Ryan did, but I did believe they could do some damage.
A.B.: Obviously, a lot of the Jets' success so far has come from their punishing run attack and their defence. How do you think those units will match up against the Colts?
J.C.: I think as long as the Jets run the ball right up the middle, they will be fine. The Colts are too fast to attempt outside runs or tosses. Eventually the Colts' undersized front seven will wear down. On defense, it is always hard to stop Peyton Manning, but I think the Jets could keep the Colts' offense to around 20 points, which will give them a great chance to win the game.
A.B.: Mark Sanchez has been criticized by many this year. Do you think the criticism is fair?
J.C.: Yes, the criticism has been fair. Sanchez was simply turning the ball over way too much in the middle of the season. Fortunately, he has become more careful over the previous few weeks and realized he just needs to be a game manager and allow the running game and defense to carry the Jets.
A.B.: Will Sanchez have to step up his play for the Jets to win this weekend, or can they still win if he plays the solid-but-not-spectacular way he has in the last couple of weeks?
J.C.: I believe they could win if he plays solid-but-not spectacular. They beat the Chargers with him only throwing for 100 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. If he can improve on that slightly and play closer to the way he did against the Bengals, the Jets will be in great shape.
A.B.: Some people have compared these Jets to the 2005-06 Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers; a wildcard team with a strong defence, a good running attack and a young quarterback. What do you think of this comparison?
J.C.: I think it is a fair comparison; both teams were constructed in a very similar way. Keep in mind that the Steelers shocked the Colts in the playoffs that season by beating them in Indy. Hopefully the Jets can duplicate that on Sunday.
A.B.: Finally, how do you think this weekend's game will unfold?
J.C.: For some reason, I am confident in the Jets winning this game. I believe running the football and defense are the two keys to winning a championship and the Jets do both those things better than the Colts. The Jets are going to come into this game loose and confident. I think they will weather the early storm, head into halftime in a close game and escape with a 23-20 victory.